The British government has refused to comment on whether it paid a £140,000 ransom to secure the release of a teacher held hostage in Yemen for more than five months.
Mike Harvey, an English teacher who was working in Sana’a, the Yemeni capital, was kidnapped while on his way home on 12 February this year.
The Telegraph reports that he was finally released last week after Yemeni government made contact with the kidnappers through tribal intermediaries, but the Foreign Office has refused to comment on whether it paid a ransom for him. Other sources also suggest that three senior Al Qaeda operatives were released.
A Foreign Office spokesman said that Britain would have had no involvement in any prisoner exchange, but refused to confirm or deny that a ransom had been paid.
A video released on Yemeni TV showed Mr Harvey sitting alongside the tribal intermediaries after his release. He was then transferred to the British Embassy, and was said to be “physically well but slightly disorientated”.
An official said yesterday that he is “coming to terms with his release”. Preparations are now being made for him to return to the United Kingdom.
Local tribes have a history of kidnapping foreigners and locals to win concessions or extort ransom money, and Yemeni authorities have handed over money in some cases in the past.
Mr Harvey was the third person to be kidnapped in Yemen in only two weeks. Another British citizen, and a German, were also kidnapped, all the abductions are believed to be unrelated and so Harvey’s release is unlikely to have any impact on them.